It’s okay to eat while standing, or more diet advice debunked

I’ve known the standard advice for almost all of my life. It’s practically one of the ten commandments of dieting. Eat at the table. Make an occasion of it. Don’t read or watch television. Pay attention to your food. Eating while standing is bad news.

Grade six me heard that advice from a weight watchers leader and decades later I heard the same advice from a nutrition counseling program.

It’s one of the few rules adhered to and recommended by extreme diet culture and by those who advocate mindful/intuitive eating. Anything that that many people agree on must be right, right?

Here it is again in article called the habits that keep you fat.

Number one is eating while standing.

FAT HABIT: You eat while standing up.
Studies show that people who skip sit-down meals in the interest of saving time may be costing themselves unwanted calories. Canadian researchers asked one group of people to eat food out of plastic containers while standing over a kitchen counter, while a second group ate an identical meal off of a plate sitting down at a table.

At their next meal a few hours later, the “standers” downed about 30 percent more calories than the “sitters.” The researchers theorized that eating on your feet doesn’t register psychologically as a “real meal”, and as a result people may subconsciously grant themselves permission to eat more later in the day.
Pull up a chair and stay awhile. You’re more like to pace your eating when you pause to sit down and enjoy your food, and eating more slowly can translate to fewer calories, so get in the habit of eating meals only while seated at the table.

But what if it’s not true?

The Smithsonian magazine declared that it’s fine to eat standing up, though they were mostly interested in claims about indigestion.

Now Livestrong goes one step further recommending that we eat one meal a day on our feet.

Why? We spend far too much time during the day sitting.

Eat one meal a day while standing. Sitting during meals can add hours to your overall sitting time. Try eating breakfast at the kitchen counter, or look for a lunch spot with tall tables. Standing while eating does not mean that you have to eat quickly or make poor food choices. You can savor a meal while on your feet just as well as in a chair.

I’ve been trying it lately, setting a place at the kitchen counter, and I’m loving it. I can still eat slowly and focus on my food while standing. I don’t do it all the time. When we eat as a family we sit at the table but when I’m alone, I’m happy to stand.

Google image search for photos of people eating while standing, it’s almost all pizza! Or fat people eating take out. But here, finally I found an image of a woman happily eating salad while standing.

How about you? Do eat while standing? Feel guilty about it or do you embrace it?


10 thoughts on “It’s okay to eat while standing, or more diet advice debunked

  1. Surely the 30% more calories at the next meal were to compensate for the more active lifestyle and the energy expended in standing up to eat a meal??? I hate bad science! Sometimes I would have to skip meals if I couldn’t eat on the hoof and I haven’t sat down at my dining table to eat since Christmas day, and I’m clinically underweight, so standing up to eat is certainly not helping me get my weight under control in the other direction, by which I mean it’s not making me gain weight to achieve a healthy weight! I’ve tried almost all of these silly folklore old wives tales about putting weight on and they’re all nonsense – eating late at night is another one that doesn’t make you gain weight.

  2. I am reluctant to call this “debunked diet advice.” The only diet advice that works is: maintain an appropriate caloric intake (surplus, maintenance, deficit, as desired) in the presence of adequate nutrition. Everything else is logistics, and because there are 7 billion people out there, all with different experiences, preferences, motivations, temptations, and so on, there are countless “logistical” possibilities, some of which work for some people and not for others.

    “Eating while standing” is often eating while preparing food (as in the happy picture) or eating while processed food packages are still open (as in wolfing down something in the kitchen) or at a restaurant that serves calorie-dense (but maybe nutritionally meh) food like pizza. This is a noticeable source of mindless, un-accounted-for intake for many people. If job #1 is just being more aware of what you’re eating, it can be a huge help to get in the habit of measuring servings, plating food in the kitchen, and taking it elsewhere to sit and eat. If you already have a good handle on your intake, then you could be hanging from the rafters for all your eating position matters.

    There are tons of lists out there of “150 ways to curb your calories” or whatever, and only a handful at most apply well to any given person. Figuring out which appeal to you, reinforce your best choices, and are actually doable day to day is something no expert or study investigator can reliably do.

    1. Right. I like the idea of getting to know what works for you. It’s more the “universal” aspect of the advice that’s debunked…

  3. Great post! I often eat standing up because in my job I spend most of the time sitting or driving so I too feel I need to spend more time on my feet.

  4. There’s nothing about eating occasionally standing up..a snack or something.

    I assumed that eating while sitting and but not in front of a tv or computer, means more slower, mindful eating.

Comments are closed.